tv CNN On The Frontlines CNN December 25, 2011 11:00pm-12:00am EST
welcome to our special for "cnn on the front lines" where any reporter wants to be where it's happening when it is happening. when it really counts. when it comes to all of that it has been a very busy year for us. a busy year for the world. a year that mattered to millions. people who felt the earth torn apart and saw their world washed away, their faith in science rocked by a nuclear catastrophe. millions rose up against dictators. they watched friends and neighbors die in streets and tasted freedom. you'll experience all of that in the hour ahead through the eyes and minds of my colleagues and friends, where it happened right from the start.
january 2011, the rumblings of an uprising in cairo. crowds begin to gather in tahrir square. a revolution has begun. what is your message to president mubarak? >> he should leave tonight. >> mubarak has been egypt's dictator for years. and the growing crowd of protesters want him out. mubarak digs in and the once peaceful protest turns violent. >> this is an unmistakable show of military force. fighter jets flying low over cairo's tahrir square, liberation square, a symbol of defiance. >> here what are you hearing them saying is go, go.
>> tracer fireflying in the air. the demonstrators say that's the army firing to warn them to stay away. >> pro-mubarak forces target the unarmed protesters. journalists come under attack. >> i'm shaken. i was shoved out of the way there. this is completely surreal experience. okay. okay. i'm not -- okay, i'm being told to walk. walk. don't stay. okay. >> we have been hit now like ten times. the egyptian soldiers are doing nothing. >> we would like to be showing you instead of this picture, this strange picture of us sitting on the floor, we would like to be showing you live pictures of what's happening in lib reag square right now because we can't do that. the cameras have been taken down through threats, intimidation,
through actual, physical attacks. 18 days of clashes and with mubarak stepping down from power. just one country away, another revolution begins in benghazi. >> we are the first television crew to get to this city. we were overwhelmed by the welcome here. people were throwing candy inside the car, clapping, shaking our hands, telling us you're welcome, thank you for coming here. incredible experience. >> the uprising against gadhafi turns into a seven-month war. in the capital, government minders try to force-feed journalists total gadhafi control. >> this is really what the libyan government wants to get out, this message that in the capital of tripoli, support for gadhafi is strong. support for his government is
strong. >> nato begins its campaign to protect libyan civilians. the battle on the ground incense fis. >> this is proving to be a tougher battle than anyone anticipated. this city, key territory, should the pro-gadhafi elements push in here, the concern is this could turn into a bloodbath. >> get down! >> we are leaving this area. there's gunfire all around us. we believe that gadhafi's forces are doing a -- a round about movement, so we are rushing out of this area. >> guys? everybody's fine. >> we are going as fast as we can. >> as the fight draws closer to triple toly loyalists trap journalists inside the rixos hotel.
>> the past few seconds, minutes, we've learned that security that has been so prevalent around this hotel has all of a sudden decided to leave, essentially the government minders who are armed with assault rifles, things like that, have departed the hotel now. it's pretty empty in the lobby apart from a few security staff or rather a few hotel staff. apart from that, it's empty which makes it a very kind of uncertain time. >> tripoli begins to fall and the journalists are free. days later, opposition fighters storm gadhafi's compound. >> over here you're seeing them, these are cars that belong to the gadhafi regime. they are blowing off rounds on. top of them. that's closed security -- [ gunfire ] >> i'm going to try not to get hit by any of those rounds. >> gadhafi is later found and killed. in 2011, the world also watches
a natural disaster unfold on live tv. the most powerful earthquake to hit japan causes a massive tsunami. widespread destruction. this feels like it's the ground but it isn't the ground. we're probably -- this is probably ten feet up off where the actual ground is. there's so much debris piled on. there's actually an entire van beneath me. more than 15,000 people are killed. >> when the earthquake happened, students at the elementary evacuated out of the school. they had no idea a tsunami was coming. out of 108 students at the school that day, 77 are either dead or missing. that's 70% of the children at the school. >> the quake causes a nuclear emergency after floodwaters damage some of the country's largest nuclear reactors. the radiation leak forces the evacuation of 200,000 people. only the animals are left behind. journalists retreat to tokyo.
but continue to report. >> this has an alarm, yours does. if you suddenly find yourself in an area where there's too much radiation, it will alarm. >> nuclear concerns linger today as the country continues to rebuild. another story where journalists and the world watched history as it happened. the different seismic events, of course, some begin whet the earth shakes and others when people won't be moved. it's happening around the arab world. most amazingly, early on in egypt, the largest population in the arab world. we asked reporters to tell us what they remember most about covering the stories. ben wedeman was in egypt at the outset of the revolution. here what happens he had to say. >> 2011 has been a year of unrelenting news. here in cairo, the biggest news came on the 25th of january when we were told there would be another demonstration against hosni mubarak. we attended one, it was relatively small. we headed back to the office. i started to write a script
about that modest demonstration and then i got a phone call that there was tear gas being fired in tahrir square. so we went down to this street, jumped in a taxi, started to go there, but we went over -- rather under what is known as the six october bridge. by chance, i look behind me and i saw thousands and thousands of students coming down the bridge shouting, down, down with the regime, and heading to tahrir square. when i saw that, i realized, this regime is going down. >> ben wedeman join me with arwa damon, nic robertson, hala gorani. what was it about what was happening on that bridge that made you realize, this is really it. >> it was the sheer number of people. i have seen demonstrations against mubarak and others. it was a handful, maybe 100 or maybe 200. the bridge was full. we are taking thousands and thousands of people.
and i think what became apparent that day, the regime was outnumbered by the people. i think that realization spread so quickly that three days later, basically the regime gave up and handed over the country to the army. >> people died on the bridge. you were beat up, pushed around near that bridge, weren't you? >> that was on the 28th. >> on the 2th. >> in cairo you get shoved around quite a lot by the security forces. >> be more specific which day. >> okay, yeah. yeah, on the 28th, we were filming and this was clearly the day when it was all going to come down and sort of with finality. we were with tommy evans and mary rogers. we were surrounded by plainclothed policemen and hired thugs. they looked like they were under the influence of narcotics. they were insisting on taking away the camera. i said no, because we had great
footage of some incredible scenes and what ensued was a very long pushing and shoving match in which they cracked the camera, the view finder right off, and took it away. i went back to argue with the superior officer -- >> you are fluent in arabic? >> yes. yes. i was using words that i wouldn't in polite company. i argued with the guy for quite some time. we lost the camera and footage. got roughed up, but it got me going. i was angry. >> right. i remember that. i got there days later. for all of us, for me that was the most remarkable reporting experience to witness it, to be there. what about for you guys? i mean, you, ivan, were trapped in tahrir square in a rundown hotel during the worst of the violence. we were all very worried about you. we were on the other side. >> that was the famous day of the battle of the camel where we
all saw scenes we thought we would never see before. first this rock fight breaks out. i think you got attacked on that day. we were getting pushed and shoved around. we were caught, my cameraman joe and i, were caught in the middle of this horrendous rock fight between two sides and basically ran, did a commando run, and our hotel, this flea hotel, the door was chained shut. we managed to squeeze in, got to the roof and suddenly these camels started charging into the square and beating up the demonstrators, and then the riders were ripped off. we were stuck in that hotel in tahrir square as it was encircled by the thugs and we didn't know if we would get out that night. >> the fear was they would come into the hotel. there was nothing to stop them if they had that area. >> we didn't think they could hold out against the regime, and they did, for days. they won in the end. >> what i find fascinating, this
battle of the camels was seen from so many perspectives. you were from up top. i was right there when the camels came in. i was trying to badly take blackberry pictures. it just -- it just symbolized the historical nature of what was happening. all of a sudden, this epic, bizarre surreal camel charge in tahrir square. we were all seeing it from -- >> when many egyptians realized the regime was bankrupt, had no idea how to deal with it other than to pay a bunch of camel drivers to try to put down the revolt. >> when you resort to the camel drivers, it's over at that point. it was interesting because of technology and because of the resources, frankly, of cnn, you are able to be in the midst of stories in a way and broadcast live during them in a way we have never been able to do before. we saw that whether you in tahrir square broadcasting live.
i remember being in the balcony with you in the hotel overlooking where and getting laser sighted in areas where the thugs were. we didn't know if was laser site of a rifle. >> we were surrounded. you could not leave without getting beaten up. we nicknamed it sarcastically beat a journalist day because so many people were getting smacked around. there was something so raw and visceral around those pro-mubarak, anti-us, hating us, labeling us as spies. >> what's happening in egypt now, we'll look at what happens after a dictator falls, struggles with the military and now elections. here's ivan watson. >> reporter: this year, tahrir square has been the scene of incredible drama. the sensational images of the famous battle of the camel, people fighting each other with
clubs and sticks, making weapons and shields out of the most basic tools. but it has also become a symbol, tahrir square behind me, of a struggle for freedom, a struggle for dignity in the arab world. first in january and february, as egyptians gathered and said no the dictatorial regime of hosni mubarak. and then once again, nine, ten months later in november as they gathered again and said no to the ruling military council here. tahrir square has become a symbol of this struggle in the arab world. i predict we'll see more drama here again as egyptians continue to see this square as a sign 0 and a symbol of their struggle for freedom. just unroll, wrap the brie and bake. it's so easy. now this might even impress aunt martha. pillsbury crescent wrapped brie. holiday ideas made easy. yeah, i toog nyguil bud i'm stild stubbed up.
[ male announcer ] truth is, nyquil doesn't un-stuff your nose. really? [ male announcer ] alka-seltzer plus liquid gels fights your worst cold symptoms, plus it relieves your stuffy nose. [ deep breath ] thank you! that's the cold truth! so i used my citi thank you card to pick up some accessories. a new belt. some nylons. and what girl wouldn't need new shoes? we talked about getting a diamond. but with all the thank you points i've been earning... ♪
...i flew us to the rock i really had in mind. ♪ [ male announcer ] the citi thank you card. earn points you can use for travel on any airline, with no blackout dates. earn points you can use for travel on any airline, what is it about taking a first step that we find so compelling? is it because taking a step represents hope? or triumph? at genworth, we believe in taking small steps every day to keep your promises, protect what matters, and prepare for a secure financial future. no matter where you want to go, one step at a time is the only way to get there. go to genworth.com/promises. okay... uhh. the bad news, it's probably totaled. the good news is, you don't have to pay your deductible. with vanishing deductible from nationwide insurance, you got $100 off for every year of safe driving, so now your deductible is zero.
the other good news ? i held on to your coffee. wow. ♪ nationwide is on your side ( laughing ) it's actually a pretty good day when you consider. that's great. i was able to witness firsthand the birth of something that i thought i would never see in the middle east -- protesters demanding accountability from their leaders. i never thought, in the years i spent covering the middle east and the time i spent going back and forth to the middle east -- my family is from syria -- i never thought i would see a dictator taken down by the power of street protests. in egypt, it's freer. the press can travel to cairo and report. i have come to love that country and the people in egypt, i truly have over the several years i spent reporting there.
so, it's almost, i almost -- it's almost like wishing family well when you know a country intimately in a way i have grown to know egypt. >> hala gorani on reporting from egypt. i spent time there, our fellow colleagues had the opportunity to see every chapter before and since. back with hala, nic, arwa and ben. you live in cairo, your family was there. the same time this was all happening, you are concerned about your family and their well-being. >> i was completely split, ripped in two. on one hand, i wanted to cover the revolution. on the other, my neighborhood was an armed camp. my neighbors put barricades on the roads. they pulled out weapons i didn't know they had. shotguns, machine guns, samurai swords. and even my 17-year-old son was out there every night with a baseball bat and our german shepherd joining the patrol
because we live in a nice neighborhood surrounded by slums. next to egypt's largest prison. >> i'll never forget broadcasting with you and hala, we had snuck from the hotel to the bureau because it would have a better satellite feed for us. moments before we went on the air, security saw people coming up from the back alley. the bureau is open. anybody can get into the building. that's when we decided to turn off all the lights, get down on the floor. the security guy suddenly jammed the couch in front of the door. and i was like that's our high-tech security? are you kidding me? jammed the couch in front of the door. we went ahead with the broadcast on the floor. that, for me, was one of the most intense moments. >> surreal. >> absolutely surreal. you've all reported in this region. did you ever expect to be seeing the things you are now seeing? never. >> never. >> absolutely not. not across the whole of north africa the way we're seeing this change. i think this is only the beginning. we are looking forward to next year. the revolutions happened.
but as we all know, what happens after revolutions, the country goes through convulsions and contortions and several governments may come over the next few years. syria is an event, in a way that we are waiting to happen. that will have a knock-on effect. >> syria is going to have a huge knock-on effect. >> to be watching the middle east completely and utterly change, who would imagine that sitting here? >> you recently came out with a report, they believe there's a civil war in syria. arwa, you were recently there. i want to show you what arwa had to say about her experience there. >> i was hiding in the back of a white van with two activists who were absolutely terrified, who i never met them my entire life. they took me through the damascus suburbs to link up with a young doctor, who had set up a secret underground clinic, part of a network of doctors trying to save wounded demonstrators' lives. they were taking an incredible risk because they wanted us to see some of their patients.
people with gunshot wounds who weren't able to go to the hospitals. a young boy, a teenager, the doctor didn't have the medical equipment to understand the scope of his injuries. they said the little boy was partially paralyzed from the waist down. the doctor was a young man. he said it was so difficult for him to have people die in his hands because he quite simply couldn't save them. >> for months the syrian government has been lying. publicly they're saying their ambassadors are here. journalists are free to travel. you can talk to whomever you want. what was your experience? >> you are free to travel as long as you take a government minder with you, who is not called a government minder, who is a facilitator, he's not there to prevent you from reporting, he's there to help you out. >> there's an element they might want to do you harm. that was the narrative the whole time we were in syria. we are not keeping you from traveling around the country because we want to hide things from you. we are keeping you from that traveling around the country
because we want to protect you. >> it was better to be there with those restrictions than not to be there at all. we were able, in the end, to get the stories, get away from our minders and get some the reports on the air. >> the street whispers to you and talks to you. >> what do you mean the street whispers to you? >> people will come up to you and they'll slide paper into your hands. >> that's how we connects with some of the activists. they would slide very -- in in this age of twitter facebook and everything, most old fashioned way of communicating is how i got the best contact in syria, which was a young man, an engineering student -- who i am still in touch with with a fake e-mail account to make sure he's okay -- rolled this piece of paper in my hand and said they're lying to you, e-mail me. it was amazing how they get around the controls and surveillance. >> when you think about the risk they are taking, i mean they could die so easily or be tortured. things we can't imagine. we hear the stories coming out of syria, they are terrifying.
it makes your skin crawl. they are taking this risk all the time. we are surrounded by government minders and someone would walk past and say, they're lying, that's all you hear. >> do you get used to seeing the bravery of people coming forward? do you get used to seeing killed in the streets for speaking out? >> no. never. >> the bravery we have seen, it makes you want to weep sometimes to see them that come out, they are at a funeral of their friend who was killed, then the security forces start shooting at the funeral procession and they still keep chanting, you know, democracy or down with the regime when fired on that way. >> even now on my show i talk to people in syria on the phone who insist on using their real names. they insist on it because they say they're no longer afraid and they want the government to know they are not afraid, no matter what is going to happen to them. >> that's the biggest unifying factor. people saying we lost our fear. it started there and rolled across.
when people say they lost their fear, that's where government should worry. >> we're going to have much more ahead with our correspondents. libya 2011 brought incredible change there. opposition forces took on moammar gadhafi's military, ultimately won with the help of nato. david and goliath story, if ever there was one. plenty of hair-raising moments. in tripoli matthew chance became a prisoner along with other journalists in his hotel. >> we've been living in fear for five days. we are being held against our will by these crazy gunmen. >> also ahead, the triple disaster that left more than 15,000 people dead in japan. a monster tsunami. the nuclear crisis it set off. [ male announcer ] vicks nyquil cold and flu. the nighttime sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, fever, best sleep you ever got with a cold...medicine. ♪ ♪ you want to save money on car insurance? no problem.
you want to save money on rv insurance? no problem. you want to save money on motorcycle insurance? no problem. you want to find a place to park all these things? fuggedaboud it. this is new york. hey little guy, wake up! aw, come off it mate! geico. saving people money on more than just car insurance. ♪ [ engine revs ] ♪ [ male announcer ] oh what fun it is to ride. get the mercedes-benz on your wish list at the winter event going on now. but hurry -- the offer ends january 3rd. [ santa ] ho, ho, ho!
the unrest sweeping egypt and tunisia also reached libya. demonstrators took the streets in benghazi and tripoli. demanding an end to moammar gadhafi's rule. the army met them with force. a bloodbath began and wouldn't end for eight more months. they make a major advance throughout the country with the help of nato. nic robertson was in tripoli, the capital, one of the first reporter there's in the early days of the uprising. >> we are going into tripoli at the end of february. we had no idea what to expect. some journalists pulled out. and just didn't go. some were beaten up driving from the airport to the hotel. an amazing thing happened on the first day there. the government drivers and minders took us where the rebels has control of the city amazingly, the government drivers dropped us off and let us go where we wanted.
we walked to where we saw a crowds of people gathered around a tank. we thought this was the government showing us pro-gadhafi reporters. as i climbed on the tank, i realized they were rebels, the government minders delivered us to the rebel side. i started thinking okay there's a gun battle and we've brought in to film to witness it but it wasn't the case. the government made a mistake. right after that, they changed. the security kind of took over from the government officials running the press site. within days, when we left the hotel without minders, we were rounded up sometimes at gunpoint and forcibly taken back to the hotel. the first few days we had a tiny bit of freedom and then the government clamped down on us. >> nic aura, sarah and ben we'dman. nic, what was it like in tripoli in those early days?
>> it was the time we had almost all the freedom. intelligence got ahold of the idea we were renegades. we were heading to parts of the city they didn't want us to go to. we were headed back to the hotel city we didn't want to. then they clamped down on us. the access dried up. >> ben, you were the first western journalist to enter through the east in libya in opposition-held territory making your way to benghazi. i will never forget the video is like the allies entering in paris after world war two. it was this extraordinary jubilation. >> you know, our first 48 hours in libya was really nerve-racking because everybody would meet and speak to was full of this energy that had been pent up, frustration, anger. it was suddenly coming out. they were happy to see you, but they were so excited that finally, they were free, you couldn't have a normal conversation. people were shouting. ahhh! i thought oh my god, if i stay here much longer, i'll die of a
heart attack. but i mean, it was thrilling in a different way from egypt. >> during the final fall of tripoli, matthew and sara, everybody is riveted to both of you. matthew, you were trapped in the riox hotel. i wanted to show some of what you had to say about it. >> i suppose the pivotal moment of the past 12 months for me was the situation i got myself into or found myself in in the rixos hotel in tripoli. we weren't permitted to go outside except under very controlled circumstances. so you got a very distorted perspective on the entire conflict. afterwards, it was amazing. i was personally very relieved as were the other journalists held inside the rixos. i went outside the hotel. within a few minutes i went to the live location of cnn in the center of tripoli and i was surrounded by crowds of people who lad come out in the center of tripoli and they were celebrating the liberation of
their country. and firing guns in the air and giving me flowers. there was this amazing electricity about the place. they were on the verge of a new era in their country and finally free. i felt -- i fell part of that as well because i was also free after a period of being incarcerated. and so it was an amazing moment. >> it's rare, often reporters end up talking about things that have already happened. reporting on things that have already occurred and you're trying to make the story in the past. that was a story that was unfolding and you were trapped in the middle of it. what is that like? >> highly unusual of being in the story yourself. that's what we found ourselves being. it's remarkable. we found a small little transformation that took place in the hole where everybody was so hard lined, so pro-colonel gadhafi, the gunman was so local to him and over the period of days as they went by, rebellion and rebels gained ground across the
rest of the country, this transition took hold. the gunmen inside the hotel started to realize that the world outside the gates of the hotel, their country changed beyond recognition. when they finally made that realization, you know, the whole thing fell apart. they basically abandoned their post. some of them got killed outside. >> what was that like negotiating with gunmen? it's an experience everybody has had. until you have had it, it's hard to describe. what was it like? >> the negotiations were carried out by the producer i was working with because she speaks arabic, obviously, they were the end result of what were days upon days, hours upon hours, of just everybody together thinking how we were going to get out of this. that was the big concern. this was going to be the last stand of gadhafi's loyalists in the hotel where we were stuck. we were going to get caught up in that.
that was worst case scenario. we were assessing our risk. wondering, deciding what our next step was going to be and then present it in the form of negotiation to the guards. obviously we had no idea, right up until the last minute or two, last five minutes, maybe, that this was going to produce results and they finally capitulated and understood that you are holding us captive was a dead-end game for them. when that happened, there was a huge emotional release. they cried, gave us their weapons. we took some of them with us in the evacuation because if we left them there, they'd have been killed. >> a lot more about libya ahead. the nation that's ending 2011 without the man who terrorized its people for decades. our correspondents share more of what they saw on the ground. also ahead, disaster that claimed more than 15,000 lives. raised new questions about the safety of nuclear power plants in earthquake zones. we'll be right back.
♪ when the things that you need come at just the right speed, that's logistics. ♪ ♪ medicine that can't wait legal briefs there by eight, that's logistics. ♪ ♪ freight for you, box for me box that keeps you healthy, that's logistics. ♪ ♪ saving time, cutting stress, when you use ups that's logistics. ♪ okay... uhh. the bad news, it's probably totaled. the good news is,
you don't have to pay your deductible. with vanishing deductible from nationwide insurance, you got $100 off for every year of safe driving, so now your deductible is zero. the other good news ? i held on to your coffee. wow. ♪ nationwide is on your side ( laughing ) it's actually a pretty good day when you consider. that's great.
and there was, you know, dozens and dozens of men holding their guns, celebrating, saying, you know, it's close. it's about to be over. we are going to take this compound and we are going to kick, you know, the gadhafi regime out of tripoli and we are going to crush the regime that has been so crushing to us and our families for more than 40 years. it was exhilarating. it was one of those days where you are like, wow, this is history being made right here and standing right here, august 23rd. tripoli is falling around me. >> sara sidner on the fall of libya's largest city. aparts the arab world it exploded in 2011. people compared it to a fever or a wave, a set of giant dominos. the unrest that rippled and is still rippling across the region is extraordinary to witness. sara and the rest of the panel are back. all have seen history made and rewritten as well this year. being there, i mean, was that
the most intense experience that you had found yourself in? you were reporting live throughout it all. >> it was. the second most was the mumbai attacks outside the taj hotel. there was a barrier, so to speak. the walls of the hotel. there wasn't a barrier here. i mean you were trying to decide on a minute by minute basis whether or not you and your crew were safe and whoever that meant in this scenario, and as people started going into this compound, we couldn't see it. we were just next door. we could hear. the moment we saw them open up some of the files and the names on the files, the children of gadhafi, we were like where could they have gotten those. and they were all saying from inside, from inside. we're swimming in the pools. we're swimming in the pools. that was a fascination. everyone was happy to be swimming in the pools. and we thought, okay, they're in. it seems they're in. it was a scenario where we went
forward trying to decide and finally, we got to the walls, the outside of the compound. they were littered with holes. and mortgagers. i mean it looked like armageddon in there for a second. and then the guys were there, standing outside and they said -- we said -- they said, who, who, who? we said cnn. oh, they just let us walk right in. everyone was rushing in and then rushing out. i kept thinking what the hell is going on? what is going on? are people being shot at inside the compound still or are they just excited and kind of going back and forth? and what was going on was people were bringing guns out. they were bringing anything they could get their hands on out. telling us the tea is still hot. there are still people in there fighting. there are uniforms. you could see shoes, all sorts of things. people got up and got the hell out of there. to be honest. >> it is a great moment when you are able to say cnn and they say oh, yes, okay. it's always a nice -- >> it doesn't happen very much.
>> sometimes the door is closed. >> that's true. nic, you were in the hotel when that extraordinary day when al abati came in screaming she was raped by gadhafi's forces. >> the government officials, the minders escorting us to the different places around tripoli suddenly were pulling guns and literally took our camera and intentionally broke it in pieces and threw it on the floor. >> one of the waitresses -- >> threw a bag or sheet over her head and the government thugs just took her away. the journalists were trying to stop them from taking her away from the hotel. >> where are you going with her? where are you going with her? >> it was the brutality that the regime said wasn't happening, unfolding in front of our eyes by the guys pretending to be something else. >> for you, what is a good day
in the field? what is a day that makes you feel, you know what, this was -- this was a good day? we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing? >> when you feel like you actually do have this fundamental sense of purpose and you are feeling the emotions. especially with everything happening in the middle east right now. i don't think, despite the fact we have been covering it we actually understand what it means for the people going through all of this, what it means for the libyans who have gone through so much under gadhafi to not have that anymore in egypt and all of these other places. they go through things we can't imagine. it's our worst nightmares and they are living it. >> we are a window for our audience. as big as we can open that window and show them what's happening, it's a great feeling when you open that window and know you can show some of that story to the world. but what is an amazing feeling is when you feel on this huge story, the world actually cares and it's looking in through that window.
then you feel like you have done your job. >> sometimes you feel like you are talking into a wind tunnel, telling the stories and it doesn't have an impact. when you do feel that impact, it's extraordinary. >> when the world cares and you know they care and they are watching, those are the moments that get me the most. you know, i think they were slowed down to reflect on this year, but when you reflect on it now, just looking at the pictures, reminding us, we were talking about it, it's powerful to watch it. >> it's humbling. >> humbling. >> people don't realize we don't see a lot of the reports when you're overseas and you're filing this stuff and you've got to go out to another demonstration and file another thing you don't end up seeing a lot of the stuff. it was interesting to watch you all watch these pieces. you're like oh yeah. >> we were so much younger at the beginning. >> true. >> we are going to have much more ahead. the other big story of 2011. japan's killer earthquake and
forty years ago, he wasn't worried about retirement. he'd yet to hear of mutual funds, iras, or annuities. back then, he had something more important to do. he wasn't focused on his future but fortunately, somebody else was. at usaa we provide retirement solutions for our military, veterans and their families. from investments... to life insurance... to health care options. learn more with our free usaa retirement guide. call 877-242-usaa. what is it about taking a first step that we find so compelling? is it because taking a step represents hope? or triumph? at genworth, we believe in taking small steps every day to keep your promises, protect what matters, and prepare for a secure financial future. no matter where you want to go, one step at a time is the only way to get there.
we look at the biggest stories from 2011 from correspondents who covered the stories firsthand. i between turn to the japan earthquake tsunami in japan. no one can forget the 30 foot wave that destroyed the city in minutes. is seems like this played out all along the coast of north japan. here's what caused the most concern, the fukushima daiichi power plant. officials put it on with the 1996 chernobyl disaster.
here's how to all started with that massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake that hit the island's nation. here's cnn's kyung lah. >> if there is one story that will always be memorable to me, it's covering the tsunami in japan. but not those massive scenes of devastation. it's when i sat down with a young mother who was going over how many family members she lost and she started counting on her hand and she ran out and she had to keep counting. she lost seven immediate family members and among them her 8-year-old son. that's when it really struck home to me that this story was not about all the structures that were lost, it was about the lives, the loved ones and the victims who would forever be impacted by it. >> more than 15,000 people were killed in the disaster. kyung lah joins me with the rest of our panel.
hala's back, nic robertson, ivan wasson, matthew chance. it was so extraordinary to be there. i had the pleasure of working with you a little bit. to be there not just for an earthquake and tsunami, but the radiation fear and disaster that was occurring. what worried you the most? what was the most difficult aspect of reporting this storm? >> you can't see it. unlike the conflicts we have seen around the world, you can't tell if the nuclear radiation is hitting your body. you don't know. so, that was the most alarming thing, is that we simply don't know. >> you were 11 weeks pregnant at the time. people didn't realize. >> i was pregnant at the time. my 2-year-old was at home with my husband. we had earthquake damage in our apartment. there were a lot of personal things going on. that was a big concern. how close can we get? how much should we push personal safety in order to get the story, this incredible story which we all want to cover? there was little information
coming from the government. >> right. in fact incorrect information. >> incorrect information. we now know they drug their feet and did not tell the international community all the information they had. >> everybody on this platform has covered natural disasters. what is the difference between, i mean emotionally covering a natural disaster from covering a war? is it different for you all? >> i found one earthquake in india, you are very much, you become the scenes of utter devastation, you are trying to cover the story but you are so much involved in it because you don't have anywhere to sleep. you are not sure where we are going get electricity from and don't know where your food is going to come from because everything is collapsed. it's all on the ground lying around you. >> and you talk about electricity. i don't think a lot of people, for us, the key when reporting on a disaster is basically gasoline to run a generator to get electricity to broadcast.
that's the number within priority and then finding a place to sleep, and then finding something to drink. >> you're levelled with the community. you suffer. >> this is the thing. one of the big, you know, obstacles of being in a disaster, earthquake or tsunami, you really are -- the infrastructure is so devastated you are in the same boat as everybody else in the area. >> it's terrifying dealing with radiation disaster because you really don't have any sense where is it okay to go and there's not a lot of expertise that you can rely on and you find yourself making choices like well, i think this place is okay, but we have no idea. those are the choices that civilians are making every minute. >> the japanese are so calm. i mean i think that the biggest difference i see in listening to you talking, we went from a story that was so filled with emotion and picture to a story that was a 180 emotional opposite. the japanese are very quiet.
>> the thing that impresses me about all of you, i've worked with all of you and i've seen you in the field. you meet some people in the field, correspondents who swagger around as if they have a hard bitten newsman, they have seen it all and done it all and nothing affects them. i think they have no business being in the feel in those places because i think unless you are affected by it, unless you see it viewed as a human being, you don't do as effective of a job telling the story of what human beings are going through. i have seen each of you in the field really be moved and overwhelmed at times by the things you have witnessed. how do you deal with it? how do you come back from that and then go back out again at it? >> it's the worst is the feeling of helplessness, if you are watching some child dying or some family that have lost their home or whatever. i mean, you can try to be empathetic, you can try to explain their story of the world, but there's little you can do. you can give them a bottle of
water, a granola bar, people in worst situations. ultimately -- >> you can feel their suffering, but you can take their suffering away from them, and i think that hurts. >> how do you do it time and time again? >> i feel beaten up after some of these assignments. this year with the euphoria of the arab spring has also been, i think for all of us, personally exhausting. nic made a joke that we all look older than we did a year ago and i think everybody feels that way and it's not over. >> do you feel you carry the people you have met with you? >> sometimes. i experienced on several occasions i sit on the plane on the way when which is the first time when you can stop, you are not focusing on working and the next story and you are beginning to disconnect and disengage and the tears roll down my face and i can't stop it. i don't want to stop it. that's part of the release. i'm lucky, when i go home, i walk in the front door and i'm dad, i've got two girls and a lovely wife and i got on and i like running and that dissipates some of it. why do we go out again? ultimately, we believe it makes
a difference. >> you have all had those moments? >> yeah. >> you have them -- i have them after. if you have them during, you can't do your job, you start crumbling. usually it's -- it will come a few days later or a few weeks later. if i have seen a youtube video, someone shot in the head, dragged by their friend to safety in syria or somewhere else, i'll just sit there and think, in my mind i'll think, god help that country, you know? i hope these people are okay. >> i find it life affirming, i have to say. you see so many dead people, the fragility of life. i went on this natural disaster tsunami and there were 8,000 bodies on the beach when i arrived. i think it just makes you appreciate your life. that's how i deal with it. you know, i sort of kick back after a terrible story like that and think, dear god, that could so easily have been me. it wasn't. i got my life still.
>> there's a difference between conflict and the natural disasters. i think on an emotional level when there's a conflict, there's somebody you can be angry at. there's a guy with a gun hurting innocent people. there's some tyranny cal figure like gadhafi who you can blame for all of this. when it's a natural disaster, the finger of god that destroys a city, there's nobody you can blame and it's a strange -- once again, it's the feeling of helplessness and you can't really comfort those people. >> i don't know what to say. how many people did i talk to who lost every single member of their family? i talked to so many parents who lost all their children. so, what do you say to them? the only thing we can do as journalists is tell their story. >> you know what maybe keeps you sane is coming back to these places later, or finding the people out of the conflict zone
or the danger zone or they have started rebuilding and, you know, they are scarred. but they are intact and moving on with their life. >> and they pick up and carrying on. at the time it feels terrible. you see their resilience. >> come back a year or two later. >> not only are we the first ones there and the last to leave, we are the first to go back and return more often than anyone else who i have found over the years. i think that's a great credit to the organization. we have to take a quick break. we have to take a quick break. tell us whatou want to pay, and we give you a range of coverages to choose from. who is she? that's flobot. she's this new robot we're trying out, mostly for, like, small stuff. wow! look at her go! she's pretty good. she's pretty good. hey, flobot, great job. oops. [ powers down ] uh-oh, flobot is broken. the "name your price" tool, only from progressive.
call or click today. so i used my citi thank you card to pick up some accessories. a new belt. some nylons. and what girl wouldn't need new shoes? we talked about getting a diamond. but with all the thank you points i've been earning... ♪ ...i flew us to the rock i really had in mind. ♪ [ male announcer ] the citi thank you card. earn points you can use for travel on any airline, with no blackout dates.